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To have and to hold

Published (2/25/2010)
By Mike Cook
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Chris and Ryan Dolan testify with their 2-year-old daughter, Olivia, before the House Civil Justice Committee Feb. 22 in support of legislation that would create gender-neutral marriage laws and recognize in Minnesota marriages performed in other states. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)Jacob Reitan just wants what his three siblings had.

He was the best man when his two brothers got married, and was the man of honor at his sister’s wedding. However, he won’t be able to have them in his wedding unless it occurs in another state. Jacob is gay.

“I want my son to be able to marry the person he loves, just as I was able to do 38 years ago,” said his mother, Randi Reitan.

Sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls), HF893 would permit same-sex marriages in Minnesota. It would also replace gender-based marriage terminology in state law and rule with gender-neutral terms.

The House Civil Justice Committee held an informational hearing on the bill, and two others, Feb. 22. Rep. Joe Mullery (DFL-Mpls), the division chairman, said no action is expected this session, but same-sex marriage is an issue people want discussed.

Also heard by the division were:

HF999, sponsored by Mullery, that would replace the concept of “marriage” within state law with a “civil union contract;” and

HF1740, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), which would provide that same-sex marriages validly performed in other states would be recognized as valid in Minnesota.

A companion to Kahn’s bill, SF120, sponsored by Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville), and a companion to Winkler’s bill, SF1732, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Mpls), await action by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mullery’s bill has no Senate companion.

Three bills have been introduced to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage and Mullery said those sponsors opted not to present their bills.

“It’s not that we don’t want them heard, it’s just that we’ve got a lot of other things that are on the agenda right now, including solving a budget and some other things,” said Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Wabasha), who sponsors HF1871. “Do we want to delve into this divisive issue at this point?”

According to OutFront Minnesota, 14 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to provide legal benefits for same-sex couples and two recognize marriages performed in other states. Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire have civil marriage benefits for same-sex couples.

Among the arguments made by same-sex marriage proponents are economic costs, such as lower health and life insurance; highly talented people won’t want to work in the state because they would be giving up a basic civil right; and the happiness they have for one another.

“Families like ours are not going anywhere,” said Chris Dolan of St. Paul. He and his partner, Ryan, were married in Toronto. A mother giving up her daughter for adoption has since picked them from more than 70 other families.

“She told us the best example in her life of a healthy relationship was a gay relative and his partner. She told us that we reminded her of them, and thought we were best able to raise Olivia and give her the love and care she deserved,” he said.

Opponent arguments included sexual activity between gay people leads to more disease, religious beliefs that marriage should be between a man and woman, and beliefs that children should grow up with biologically connected parents.

“Children do best with a mother and a father. Mommies do not make good daddies, and daddies do not make good mommies,” said the Rev. David Glesne, senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fridley. “The two sexes are different to the core, and each is necessary culturally and biologically for the optimal development of a human being. There is now social research that indicates strongly that children with a married mother and father consistently do better in every measure of well-being than their peers in any other type of family arrangement.”

Winkler said other studies show that children can be well raised by same-sex parents.

No matter the pro and con arguments, Jacob Reitan reminded members that each day without equal marriage rights comes with a “heavy price” for gays and lesbians.

“It is the price of pain felt by gay and lesbian people at hearing the forces of intolerance time and again demean their lives and love. … Finally, it is the quiet yet ever-present price of inferiority gay people feel with the knowledge that in the eyes of government, they are second-class citizens,” he said.

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